W hen the water temperature in the bay climbs to near 90°F, fish act like people on hot and humid days; they slow way down and look for a cool spot.
So the best time of day to fish on a hot August day is at sunrise. The water has had the night to cool down. If you can be fishing when the sun rises or shortly thereafter, you can take advantage of early morning feeding activity. If the tide is moving, your chances of finding action go up even higher.
On August 7 last year, my wife, Janet, and I were kayak fishing in a spot on the south shore of West Matagorda Bay where three channels meet. We were casting chicken-on-a-chain-paddle-tail Bass Assassins on 1/16-ounce jig heads tipped with little pieces of Fishbite.
We caught redfish, black drum, and flounders that were moving along the shoreline, and trout in the deeper water in the center where the channels came together. But as the day and the water warmed, the bite cooled off.
One reason fish are less active when the water is warm is there is less oxygen in the water. However, if you fish in the surf, the water temperature is a few degrees cooler. The water comes from offshore where cooler water at depth mixes with surface water. Where the water is oxygenated by waves breaking on sandbars and crashing on the beach, you’ll have a good chance of finding very active feeding fish.
Fishing the surf is not as simple as driving onto Matagorda’s 23-mile beach, parking, and casting. First, you have to pick the right day. Certain conditions can infuse the surf with baitfish, and thus predators. Look for light and variable winds, blue water up to the beach, and incoming tide.
We have a house on Matagorda beach. One day in late August we had these “Let’s Fish the Beach” conditions, so Janet and I walked over the dunes and waded out to the second sand bar. I was using a brown and yellow Norton Sand Eel, and she was using a red and white Bass Assassin.
On that day in the clear water, the fish wanted red and white, or perhaps they were attracted to the action of the Bass Assassin. Janet was catching and releasing sand trout, and when I changed to a red and white Bass Assassin, I started catching sand trout as well. Then we got into speckled trout. Janet caught the fish of the day, a fat 22-inch speckled trout.
When you drive on the beach looking for a “fishy” place to stop, watch for bait. An incoming tide pushes millions of bait fish and shrimp into the troughs between sandbars. When you see these critters blasting out of the water, fleeing for their lives, it is because a predator such as trout, redfish, ladyfish or another one of the many species that find their food in the surf, is chasing them.
Watch for shell concentrations where the water meets the beach. These are places where there is a cut between the sandbars that allows shells to tumble through and settle on the beach. Look for where the waves break, and if you see smooth water in the center, with waves breaking on either side, you have found the cut.
Fish on both sides of the cut by casting your lure up onto the sand bar. Then work it into the trough. Predators like to hang out in that spot waiting for a meal.
Watch the birds. The three most common birds that eat fish and shrimp in the surf are gulls, terns, and pelicans. Key on the gulls. When they start squawking, diving and coming up with small fish or shrimp, you can bet that predator fish are pushing the bait to the surface.
Watch the show until you determine which direction it is going, then cast well ahead of the movement.
To identify fish you will catch in the surf, go to txmarspecies.tamug.edu. Texas Parks and Wildlife has an app for Texas saltwater fishing regulations, tpwd.texas.gov.
Here are some tips for when you venture into the surf.
• Waves will break when they hit a sandbar, so the most comfortable place to stand is on the seaward side of the sandbar a little beyond the breaking waves.
• A recommended outfit for wade fishing in the surf includes a hat with a chinstrap or attached to a clip, sunglasses on a holder, along with a long-sleeved shirt and long pants for protection from sun, mosquitoes, and jellyfish.
• Use a net that is attached to you on a short line and tuck the net in your wading belt, behind your back.
• A lifejacket is a necessity when fishing in the surf because your situation can change for the worst in a matter of seconds. I like to use an inflatable lifejacket, but a tight fitting, inherently buoyant life jacket is probably safer as you do not have to inflate it.
The best time to fish the bays in warm weather is early morning. If the surf is calm and clear, fish the beach.
The Jetties: There are three jetties to fish from in Matagorda. Two of these jetties serve as the breakwater for boats going offshore. You can drive up to the jetty on the east side, but to get to the west jetty you have to use a boat or kayak. If you would like to gig or fish for flounder at night, wade the sand near the east jetty. Be careful of the algae on the rocks near the water, walking on it feels like walking on grease. Fresh dead shrimp under a popping cork is a good choice. Determine which way the current is going, cast against it and let your popping cork work its way back to you. The third jetty is a weir jetty that is accessible from the beach on a pier that connects to the jetty. Where the pier connects to the jetty is a good place to take the kids crabbing. If the water is calm, you might want to fish the east side of this jetty, especially if you see bait working, but be careful walking on the rocks.
Email Mike Price at [email protected]